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2008-03-31

>bioluminescent "blue plate" special - firefly squid, honey mushroom...

It was not glowing jellyfish that Huck Finn used to light his way in the dark.

On a long cross-country trip, I decided to get a book on tape. Not many titles enticed me, really, and turns out these "books" cost quite a bit. I picked up just one - Huckleberry Finn.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was one of my favorite childhood books, yet I had never actually read the other "more important" work.

Indeed, it was an excellent tale to be read aloud, preferably not by me, so it was a dece
nt choice - it felt especially appropriate on the Mississippi River. "...because Tom said we got to have SOME light to see how to dig by, and a lantern makes too much, and might get us into trouble; what we must have was a lot of them rotten chunks that's called fox-fire, and just makes a soft kind of a glow when you lay them in a dark place. We fetched an armful and hid it in the weeds..."   Fairy lights, will o' the wisp? Foxfire refers to the ghostly blue-green glow produced by certain mushrooms. Jack-o-lantern (it's obvious why it was named such) is poisonous. But honey mushroom, also called honey fungus or armillaria, is edible. There are quite a few bioluminescent delicacies, if you only look around.  Firefly squid, also called sparkling enope (Watasenia scintillans), for one.

>hotaruika no sumi-tsukuri, salted and fermented firefly squid and intestines with squid ink, Anago Kanzake Ginza, Tokyo
>New York striploin, 12 oz. striploin grilled with truffled mashed potatoes, honey mushroom and vanilla enhanced jus, Flow Restaurant and Lounge, Toronto
>green papaya and jellyfish salad, Ponzu Restaurant, Waltham, MA







2008-03-29

>watermelon heads

These are real watermelons. Not photoshopped.
But most of these mutants are not yet carried by your local grocer.

Their shapes include

spheres
cubes
cones
triangular pyramids
triangular pyramids with facial features
...and hearts.
Watermelon on the Vine 
See that watermelon a'hanging on the fence
How I wish that melon was mine
Some folks are foolish, they just don't have no sense
Or they wouldn't leave that melon on the vine
Hambone it is sweet, chicken it is good
Rabbit is so very, very fine
But give me, oh give me, oh how I wish you would
That watermelon hanging on the vine

You may talk about your peaches, your apples and your pears
Persimmons growing on the tree
Folks have their favorites just most everywhere
But that watermelon is the best for me

* Refrain

I went to get that melon, I thought I'd have some fun
The stars they had just begun to shine
But when I heard some moving, I left there on the run
But I didn't leave that melon on the vine

* Refrain

2008-03-28

>risotto alle fragole, pink strawberry risotto

Pretty in pink?
Or Pepto Bismol putrid?


Opinions seem to be neatly divided into two rather incompatible camps. Either you lust after this summery fruit risotto or you spurn its kind like some noxious porridge.

Popular pink, purple or red rice concoctions are also created with red wine (risotto al vino rosso), beets (risotto alle barbabietole) or other berries.

>risotto alle fragole, Ristorante Velando, Borgo Vittorio, Roma
>risotto alle fragole, Ristorante Vecchio Mulino, Palestro PV, Italy
>risotto con le fragole, La Famiglia, London

Want to try making it at home? You can find the recipe here.

Dessert suggestions;
1) un bicchierino di panna cotta alle fragole
2) pink strawberry balls (ichigo daifuku イチゴ大福)



2008-03-18

>scallops - with guts intact, please

When we eat oysters, we devour the whole thing. Many oysters are apparently hermaphrodites, so we are eating oyster roe, sperm, gills, guts and all in one mouthful.

When it comes to mussels or clams, we throw away the adductor muscles (the chewy white bits that stick to the shell, often erroneously called the "abductor" muscles) and eat the rest.

Strangely enough, when we eat scallops, we throw away the rest (or don't get the see the rest) and eat only the adductor muscle, the white fleshy "meat", the lone posterior adductor muscle.

What's wrong with this picture?

The whole scallop can be delicious, be it sea scallop or bay scallop, including the large salmon-colored mantle. Scallop is hard to ship fresh, the main reason for separating the hardy and more presentable "meat".

When you order scallop at a good restaurant, try asking for the whole scallop and not just the white meat, and they might happily oblige you. It is also a test of how fresh their scallop really is.

>hotate & kani misonnaise - baked scallops & crab meat with miso mayonnaise, Tsukiji Restaurant, Richmont, British Columbia

>symphonie d'hamachi roti aux pistaches, scampis en risotto de riz noir et corolle de noix de Coquilles Saint-Jacques en fine ratatouille de legumes nicois et coulis safrane, La Mer Restaurant, Honolulu, Hawaii

2008-03-14

>pansotti, paccheri, tajarin, lune...

Unlike the more comprehensive pasta list I made for New York's L'Impero, I am going to abbreviate the pasta list at San Francisco's Perbacco. One evening in early March, I found the following choices. Agnolotti, tajarin, gnocchi, pansotti, paccheri, lune, pappardelle and ravioli. Some of these dishes are listed on this Zagat menu.

>pansotti (pictured on the right) / braised chard / ricotta / herbs / walnut butter
>paccheri (pictured on the left) - large pasta tubes / heritage breed pork spare rib ragu / Bellwether Farm's ricotta
>butternut squash lune / sage butter / Castelmagno cheese
>tajarin - handcut tagliatelle / 5 hour pork sugo / porcini mushrooms

My list is so brief today, it should be easy to digest. As for lune the big round ravioli, try singing "when the moon hits your eye like a bigga lune pie(?) that's amore..." Okay, supposedly it's "White Day", today.

2008-03-10

>Coffee or tea? Or organic mint melange, cafe latte, jasmine pearls...

Menus used to end simply with "coffee or tea".

Now, humble coffee and tea routinely come with a list of choices (at times puzzling - breakfast tea at dinner? Why not, if you want to stay up?) that fight for space with desserts, dessert wines and cheeses.

Last week's Italian dinner at Perbacco in San Francisco was another agreeable one. The menu came with too many choices, however, considering you can only try a couple. Three choices of crudo (hamachi, tuna, cuttlefish noodles) seven choices of salumi tasting plates (salame, cooked salumi, cured meats, salumi misti, fegatini d'anatra, ciccioli, prosciutto) 12 appetizers (including vitello tonnato, bagna caoda, baccala fritto, fritto misto,
puntarelle, various salads), 10 choices of soup, pasta, risotto, eight main courses (the Incredible Shrinking Main Courses - a story by itself), five side dishes.

Coffee, espresso, cappuccino and latte have become de rigueur choices.
Compare Perbacco's tea selection with Flora's, a Classic Californian restaurant in Oakland.

Loose Leaf Tea (Perbacco)

organic English breakfast
wild blackberry
mountain spring jasmine
organic mint melange
ginger twist
chamomile citrus

Tea (Flora)

hojicha - toasted green tea
ancient forest - rich and smooth black tea
lemon verbena - light, refreshing herbal tea
jamine pearls green tea - green tea "pearls" scented with jasmine

2008-03-09

>roasted fruit and vegetables

Among "roast" definitions, from brainyquote.com:

-To cook by exposure to radiant heat before a fire; as, to roast meat on a spit, or in an oven open toward the fire and having reflecting surfaces within; also, to cook in a closed oven.
-To cook by surrounding with hot embers, ashes, sand, etc.; as, to roast a potato in ashes.
-To dry and parch by exposure to heat; as, to roast coffee; to roast chestnuts, or peanuts.
-Hence, to heat to excess; to heat violently; to burn.
-To cook meat, fish, etc., by heat, as before the fire or in an oven.

-That which is roasted; a piece of meat which has been roasted, or is suitable for being roasted.
-Roasted; as, roast beef.

Meat, fish, potato, chestnuts, coffee - but these typical definitions overlook the important items happening on restaurant menus, roasted (also grilled and charred) fruits and vegetables. Roasted tomatoes, roasted red peppers, roasted eggplants, roasted squashes, roasted brussels sprouts, roasted asparagus, roasted root veggies, roasted onions, roasted leeks, roasted garlic cloves, roasted seaweed, roasted chili peppers, roasted peaches, roasted plums...

A recent dinner at Flora with a cousin visiting from Georgetown University was a memorably good one. Four months after it opened ("people will flock to this former floral depot no matter what, I promise"), it has undergone a major menu change, and it has already become a neighborhood institution. Their caramel pudding alone should become an institution.

Roasted fruit and veggie sightings on Flora menu - fennel, pineapple, red beets, cauliflower.

>puntarelle, roasted fennel, pancetta, lemon-anchovy vinaigrette, shaved pepato cheese
>seared sonoma foie gras, pineapple-ginger fritter, roasted pineapple, spiced pineapple gastrique
>seared scallops, roasted red beets, beurre blanc, kumquat relish
>roasted cauliflower, Moroccan charmoula, pinenut and parmesan risotto, sauteed chard

What kind of roasted vegetable would I like? Beets me. (Sorry.)